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Restaurant review: Naughty Nuri’s

The rustic Balinese warung famous for its ribs and martinis, has set up shop here in a mall. Not so naughty... but is it still nice? 

More safe than naughty
More safe than naughty
09 Mar 2016

More safe than naughty

Transplanting a famed overseas F&B concept to Singapore is almost as ubiquitous as salted egg croissants these days. Sometimes, they work well, but most times, they don't. Naughty Nuri’s from Bali, brought in by the Massive Collective group here, falls somewhere in between.

The breezy outfit opened by a bicultural couple (Nuri’s Javanese, and her hubby’s a New Yorker) is known for its Indonesian-American barbecued pork ribs and cocktails. It’s a fave with expats and tourists there and has received much coverage for its hearty food, charming charcoal grill, rustic ambience and for being a celeb magnet, boasting guests such as an inebriated Anthony Bourdain who apparently said Naughty Nuri’s served “the best martinis in the world”. But it now has several outlets overseas, and (according to a colleague who recently dined in Bali) it’s changed the name of the original Naughty Nuri’s branches there to a generic ‘Hog Wild in Bali’ (a waiter told him the name change was to differentiate itself from its overseas franchises). This can only mean one thing: don’t expect a 100 per cent authentic experience here.

Moreover, Massive Collective’s stance via its unhelpful marketing manager when we sought to clarify this was a bored “no comment, we don’t know,” although she did insist the restaurant here “is not a franchise, but we have the license to serve the same food”. The local chef here trained in the Bali branch and Nuri herself was present at the Singapore outpost on opening day. But no, the manager doesn't know how often Nuri’s coming to visit. In other words, you’re probably not going to see the Indonesian founder anywhere near Capitol Piazza soon.  

The look
The look
09 Mar 2016

The look

Forget the shabby-chic decor of the Bali branches. This local outlet is neat and sterile. Because Naughty Nuri’s in Singapore is housed within a mall. In the same mod, woodsy space formerly occupied by Japanese restaurant Zaku in Capitol Piazza. The only familiar Naughty Nuri’s touch is the framed pictures of pigs lining the walls. The place is crowded with mostly OLs and couples desperate for a taste of Bali. But the whole vibe is somewhat bland.

The food
The food
09 Mar 2016

The food

Order this: The menu offers reasonably-priced American dishes like ribs and burgers juxtaposed with Indonesian classics such as a yummy rendang. You can’t visit Naughty Nuri’s without ordering the signature ribs. So we get a full rack of the Barbecued Pork Ribs ($35.80; $18.80 for half). Two thick slabs lacquered in a swarthy glaze that tastes like it’s heavy on kecap manis. The meat is impressively soft and yielding and the marinade sticky-sweet like good char siew. But although the ribs are charred, they lack smoky depth. A server informs us the kitchen here uses an electric grill instead of a charcoal one, unlike in Bali. We ask for extra wedges of lime to spritz onto the meat, to temper the sweetness. The Javanese classic of Soup Buntut ($6.80), an oxtail soup, is delicious. Murky broth infused with robust beefy flavour and padded with gelatinous oxtail, tender carrots and potatoes. Even better: the silky, crackly-crowned Gula Melaka Crème Brûlée (pictured above, $8.80). It’s rich with the caramelly notes of burnt palm sugar, perfect with the lemak pat of coconut ice cream on the side.

Skip this: We’re positive those “world-best” martinis Bourdain swigged in Bali are the opposite of the abysmal cocktails we sip tonight. The Nuri’s Signature Martini ($19.50) manages to be both weak and bitter, like plain water with an accidental dribble of vodka. Also, the only thing going for the Nasi Goreng ($11.80) — its brown-and-white rice grains devoid of flavour — are the two sticks of succulent chicken satay perched on top.

VERDICT: While the food at this local outpost isn’t bad, some things are just worth being naughty and hopping on a plane for. 

#01-84 Capitol Piazza, 15 Stamford Rd, S178906, Tel: 6384-7966. Open daily 11.30am-11pm. Last orders at 10.30pm. www.facebook.com/NurisSingapore  

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